Rapid Reaction: Texas A&M-Stanford
INDIANAPOLIS -- A look at Texas A&M's 63-62 victory over Stanford on Sunday in the women's Final Four at Conseco Fieldhouse.
HOW THE GAME WAS WON: This was a battle of attrition and Texas A&M won because it was better able to impose its will on the game than Stanford was. This was the Aggies' kind of game. Intense. Grueling at times. Physical. For most of the contest, and despite the style of the game favoring the Aggies, Stanford was able to play right with A&M. But ultimately the Aggies were just better at it, tough enough to erase two 10-point deficits and win by scoring 19 of the game's final 27 points.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Texas A&M's Tyra White. If the Aggies go on to win the national championship and nothing else spectacular happens during that game, Sydney Colson-to-White will go down as the biggest play in program history. After Nneka Ogwumike's layup gave Stanford a one-point lead, Colson, playing without any timeouts, drove the lane on a mini-break and found White, who converted with 3.3 seconds remaining. White finished with 18 points, including the final two A&M buckets.
PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike. Her first-half effort and production saved Stanford before the break. She almost did the same in the second half, finishing with 31 points and seven rebounds. She was clearly the best player on the floor all night. Ogwumike scored the last Stanford bucket under immense pressure with 9.2 seconds left after a brilliant post-up.
PLAYER OF THE GAME III: Texas A&M's Sydney Carter. She didn't shoot it very well (5-for-19), but then again, no one on Texas A&M did (35.4 percent). Carter scored 14 points, made four 3-pointers, was outstanding on defense -- especially on Stanford point guard Jeanette Pohlen -- played all 40 minutes and, somehow, as intense as the game was, Carter didn't turn over the ball once.
TURNING POINT: Stanford had taken a 54-44 lead with 6:01 left following two Nneka Ogwumike free throws. Two trips later, Texas A&M's Danielle Adams, who came a little more alive in the second half, set a great screen on Kayla Pedersen. White then made a runner and drew the fifth foul on Chiney Ogwumike. The three-point play pulled A&M within 54-49 and kick-started the comeback that produced the biggest win in A&M history.
STAT OF THE GAME: Stanford never got used to the ruggedness of Texas A&M's defense and committed 22 turnovers. Pohlen and Melanie Murphy, who shared point guard duties, were guilty of 12 of those miscues.
STAT OF THE GAME II: While getting outrebounded 23-15 in the first half, the Aggies managed to grab only two fewer boards than Stanford in the second. It was the biggest edge the Cardinal had in the game -- but A&M was able to close it significantly after halftime.
STAT OF THE GAME III: A&M was able to win despite Colson making just one field goal. She played excellent, harassing defense and had six of A&M's 10 assists, though.
STAT OF THE GAME IV: Stanford's Murphy barely got off the bench in Spokane (three total minutes), but was relied upon heavily against the Aggies' pressure. She played a season-high 27 minutes before fouling out with just less than a minute left. While she did turn it over five times, Murphy also contributed eight points, including two huge buckets late in the second half, and four assists.
PEDERSEN GOES GUARD: Showing the versatility that has defined her career, Pedersen shouldered much of the ballhandling duties in the second half. That seemed to settle down Stanford and, more importantly, neutralized the pressure defense the Sydneys were employing on the Cardinal guards. Pedersen wasn't the exclusive ball handler, but it did give Murphy, who was playing far more minutes than she could have ever expected, a bit of a breather. Of course, Pedersen didn't stray too far from her bread and butter. With 10 rebounds, she passed former teammate Jayne Appel as the Pac-10's all-time leading rebounder.
WORSE THAN IT LOOKED: Immediately following a Sydney Carter 3-pointer that got A&M to within 29-28 at the 17:50 mark, Colson ran right into a Nneka Ogwumike screen 70 feet from the basket -- and went down hard. She remained on the floor for several minutes, holding her head. It looked like it could be serious for a moment, but Colson, who has come back from ACL surgery, returned after the next media timeout. All that looked different was that Carter assumed the duties of chasing Pohlen and Colson moved over to guard Murphy.
HEARTBREAK: On the play that ultimately won the game, Pohlen fell to the ground as White was laying in the ball. Pohlen grabbed her ankle as she lay on the baseline and then had to be helped off the court. She ends her career with an up-and-down night (11 points, 3-of-4 3-pointers, seven turnovers), limping to the bench unable to help as a last long pass by Mikaela Ruef was intercepted.
FINAL X FACTOR: Texas A&M wanted the game to be a little rough, maybe even a little ugly at times. The Aggies made it so. They imposed their will and style on the game and while Stanford played in that environment, the Cardinal were never comfortable. Mission accomplished for Gary Blair and his Aggies. It wasn't always perfect, but the intensity never let up as Texas A&M reached its first national championship game.
First-half analysis: Stanford 27, Texas A&M 23
PLAYER OF THE HALF: Stanford's Nneka Ogwumike. Stanford's entire game plan seemed to be to get the ball in to Ogwumike or get the ball on the rim and let her go get it. She was all Stanford had early and for most of the half. She was the single weapon to offset the tremendous Texas A&M defensive pressure. Ogwumike finished with 16 points and six rebounds while playing the entire half with no fouls.
PLAYER OF THE HALF II: Texas A&M's Sydney Colson. She grabs this honor without scoring a single point. The senior's contribution was all about defense, but she spearheaded the A&M pressure and completely took Stanford's Jeanette Pohlen out of her game. Pohlen was uncomfortable the entire half, committing five turnovers. Thank Colson for that.
BEST SUPPORTING ROLE: Stanford's Kayla Pedersen. She didn't get off to a quick start, but in typical Pedersen style, she wore down whoever was guarding her, scoring while facing up in the lane, in the post and on dribble drives. She finished with nine points and five rebounds.
TURNING POINT: Texas A&M went on an 11-1 run that ended with a Kelsey Assarian layup with 8:13 left for a 19-12 Aggies lead. During that 5 minute, 10 second period, Stanford turned over the ball six times in seven possessions.
TURNING POINT II: Immediately after that A&M spurt, Stanford answered to finish the half on a 13-4 run for the lead. The Cardinal settled down a bit and it was during that stretch that Pohlen made her only 3-pointer of the half. It came with 3:08 left and gave Stanford a 23-21 lead.
KEY STAT: Senior Melanie Murphy, who played a total of three minutes in the Spokane Regional, played 11 in the first half. She didn't play particularly well at first, but Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer clearly had more confidence in Murphy than either Lindy La Rocque or Toni Kokenis, who combined to play just 10 minutes.
KEY STAT II: Stanford outrebounded Texas A&M 23-15, and that includes grabbing 11 of the game's first 12 rebounds.
THREE THINGS TEXAS A&M HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Shoot it better. The Aggies were just 10-of-33 from the field. Colson was 0-for-4. Adaora Elonu was 1-for-5.
2. Get more out of Danielle Adams. Whether it was the early fast pace or the ball she took to the face midway through the half, her body language was not good for most of the first 20 minutes. She made an early 3, but did little else after that and has two fouls.
3. Keep the pressure on. A&M's biggest weapon was its pressure defense and the Aggies were able to maintain it most of the half. Without being able to rebound or make jump shots, forcing Stanford mistakes might be all they have.
THREE THINGS STANFORD HAS TO DO TO WIN:
1. Settle down. Texas A&M hasn't made it easy and won't in the second half, but it will be tough to win if the Cardinal keep this pace of 11 turnovers per 20 minutes.
2. Get more from Chiney Ogwumike. While Nneka was outstanding, the younger Ogwumike sister struggled after scoring the game's first basket. She picked up her second foul at the 9:10 mark and played just nine minutes. Her line was two points, 1-of-5 from the field and two rebounds.
3. Keep rebounding. The dominance on the glass is what kept Stanford from getting blown out by the A&M defensive onslaught early. It's the Cardinal's biggest advantage and it needs to stay that way.
Charlie Creme can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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